New Alum Has Bold Ideas on Design Project

When Mia Landsbergis ’14 visited MHC as a high school student, she noticed the campus’s famed beauty. But she also looked at it through the eyes of a future architectural studies major.

“I really liked the diversity of the landscape, and how all the buildings had the same feel,” she says. “The older architecture of the ivy-colored buildings creates a warm and academic feeling, and there are always places to sit under a tree or on the lawns.”

Landsbergis graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa and earned the Joseph A. Skinner Fellowship for graduate study in studio art or architecture.

Before diving into graduate work—she’s in a master’s program in architectural studies at the University of Pennsylvania—she wanted the variety of courses a liberal arts school offers.

At MHC, she studied math and physics, urban history and urban geography, and painting, sculpture, and digital art. And that background, as well as classes in art and architecture, provided the tools Landsbergis needed for an ambitious Senior Symposium presentation, “Penn Station Reimagined.”

A New York native, Landsbergis says she felt hurt when she learned about the history of Penn Station—how the Beaux Arts structure was heralded as one of the wonders of the world when it was built in 1910 and but was torn down just 53 years later to make way for Madison Square Garden.

“Because of my attachment to New York City, I felt strongly about it. I learned that architecture affects people,” she says.

Drawing on theories of environmental design that she learned in an MHC urban geography course, Landsbergis imagined a redesign of Penn Station that restores its former grandeur while providing a counter-argument to the proposals of four prominent New York firms that want the Garden torn down.

“I’m trying to keep as much as you can in place without tearing up an entire region of Manhattan,” she explains.

Landsbergis’s project advisor, Five College Assistant Professor of Sustainable Architecture Naomi Darling, wrote, “This project tackles a site of daunting architectural, logistical, and structural complexity. Mia Landsbergis’s reinvention of this important urban node outshines them all in terms of originality, environmental sensitivity, and dynamic social programming. “

Landsbergis started the project last summer at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York after receiving a fellowship from MHC’s Miller Worley Center for the Environment. She completed it at Mount Holyoke, drawing plans and sections and building models, concluding with a presentation to a panel of architects.

Her goal is to work in cities, designing spaces that keep in mind the relationship between people and places.

—By Ronni Gordon